Savvy Shopping – How to shop for Christmas in the January Sales

 

The January sales are all a-go-go, and it’s easy to forget all about next Christmas in the rush to get cheap clothes and cute things in the massive sales.  However, it’s a great idea to do some shopping now, for the Christmas next year (I know, I know, biiiig planning ahead, but seriously, it’s worth it!… You can get decorations half price at this time of year, and you can even bag a fake Christmas tree for under £30.

I’ve compiled a short list of things to keep in mind when shopping the January sales, specifically for the next year’s festive season:

  • Christmas pudding will keep – a rich pudding is full of sugar which means that in spite of it maybe saying ‘Best Before July 2012’, it will keep until next year.
  • Mincemeat does not seem to be in the sale in January, but keep an eye out if it is reduced.
  • Start your Christmas shopping for next year – January sales are full of nice items, that you will be paying full price for again if you leave it until next winter.  I now have a ‘present box’ in my study, which is full of presents that I can give J or friends and family for their next birthdays / Christmas.  Stationery is always useful, and will again be reduced in the January sales.
  • Likewise, jewellery and small gifts can be bought now and kept in a box until birthdays and Christmas next year.
  • Store your current Christmas decorations carefully, so that none break.  It’ll save you having to buy more decorations when you realise there’s some broken ornaments in the box next year.
  • Christmas Candles will obviously keep – if yours have been getting low due to using them this year, buy your new ones now, and save some money.  Same with christmas cards and wrapping paper – they can store easily in a cupboard somewhere until you need them next year (and you can get an early start on writing those Christmas cards; if you’ve got them in the cupboard, you can write and send them in November – plenty of time before the last postal dates!)
  • If you need to buy a new (fake) Christmas tree, now’s the time, the price is much much lower than they are before Christmas, as the old stock needs to be got rid of.
  • Christmas lights are also half price at this time of year – LED ones are usually expensive, but I managed to grab a couple of sets for £7.50 each instead of the £15 that they were before the sale.

Top Tip:  I tend to avoid the high streets, but shop online instead.  Most shops offer free delivery around this time of year, and generally all offer free returns.  It’s far more relaxing to browse a website with a cup of coffee in hand, rather than fight through a swarm of rushed shoppers in order to grab that last Christmas ramekin!

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Winter Garden

So, like I said here, I have a new camera.  Which means a multitude of photos.  And lots appearing on here.

I spent Christmas week at my parents house, which has a garden (my flat does not have one, alas… Though the fact that the park is round the corner from me takes the edge off that a fair bit!).  I’ve been playing round with the camera anyway to get an idea of what to do with it, and so here are some wintery bare-twigged photos of the garden for you to enjoy.

Happy New Year everyone!  xx

Cinnamon Orange Cupcakes

Now that Christmas is over, there’s lots and lots of festive food still to be eaten… All that turkey, and Christmas cake… and mince pies… and what did I go and do??… I made more food!

I made this recipe for a family lunch on Boxing Day this year; the whole family gets together on Boxing Day – aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins – in my grandparents house, and we all bring some food to the table to contribute.  I made these cinnamon orange cupcakes as a break from all the heavy rich food.

Ingredients:

6 oz self raising flour

6 oz granulated sugar

6 oz butter (I use hard vegetable margarine)

3 eggs

2 tbsps milk

rind of 1 orange

juice of 1 orange

Recipe:

1) Preheat the oven to 180’C.

2) Measure out the basic ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, milk) into a bowl and beat together until blended.

3) Add the juice and rind of the orange, and mix in.

4) Spoon into cupcake cases and put in the oven for 15 – 20 minus until golden brown on top and spongy to the touch.  Once out of the oven, let the cakes sit in the tin for 5 minutes to cool before placing them on a cooling rack.

Icing:

4 oz hard margarine

8 oz icing sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Beat together the icing sugar, butter and cinnamon until the mixture turns creamy and smooth.  Use a palette knife or icing bag to ice the cakes, and decorate with edible glitter or sprinkles.

Hello World!

I have a new toy: my new camera. Hola awesome Christmas present! (I’ve clearly been watching too many American TV shows, but to be fair, “shwmae awesome Christmas present” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it).

I went a bit snap happy playing with the different lenses, so forgive the inevitable posts in the New Year that will be full of photos (and the fact that the photos in the blog now will be much better quality than before)!

I’m still learning about how to take better photos – I’m far too used to my old iPhone ‘point and shoot’ camera, so it’s really nice to be able to take photos that have clarity and focus, rather than looking a little pixelated!

Hope that you’ve all had a fantastic Christmas, and that you got what you wished for!

xx

The 10 Posts of Christmas

“On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to meeeeee…. a beautifully decorated flat and a pretty Christmas tree!”

And so the Christmas preparations come to a close.  I’ve been putting my decorations up, and am pleased with the results!  My flat looks nice and homely and ready for the winter holiday.

And here’s a reminder of all the projects that I did over the last couple of weeks:

Post 1:  Candles and Cones

Post 2:  Cute Christmas Trees

Post 3:  Christmas Tree and Heart Garland

Post 4:  Glitter Baubles

Post 5:  Christmas Wreath

Post 6:  Mum’s Mince Pies

Post 7:  Failproof Christmas Cake

Post 8:  Icing the Christmas Cake

Post 9:   Non-Alcoholic Mulled Wine

Post 10:  Christmas Chocolates

So there you have it, my homemade Christmas!  Hope you’ve had a go doing some cooking and decorating yourselves 🙂

Happy Christmas everyone, hope you enjoy the food, family and festivities!

xx

Christmas Part 10: Quick and Easy Homemade Chocolate Truffles

I’m off home to the family today, which meant a mad dash packing up presents and trying to work out what to take for a week’s break last night.  As I’d been so busy the last couple of weeks with work, I still needed to make the annual Christmas chocolates that I always make for my aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Note: Family members look away NOW else your present is spoiled… BUT if you’re interested (and like them when I give them to you, keep reading, and you can find out how I made them!)

Chocolate Oreo Truffles

2 packets of oreo cookies (the normal 154g cookie packets)

4 oz butter (I use marg)

300g plain chocolate

two tbsps icing sugar

chocolate sprinkles and icing sugar to decorate

Recipe

1) Crush the oreo cookies into fine crumbs (I used a food processor for this, so it only took 5 minutes).

2) melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan until liquid and mixed together.

3) mix the 2 tbsps icing sugar with the cookie crumbs, and then pour the liquid chocolate over.  Mix well and leave to sit for 10 minutes to firm.

4) Take small teaspoonful amount of the mixture, roll lightly in your hands to create truffle ball shapes, and then roll in the sprinkles (or icing sugar if you prefer).  Place on a plate to harden for 30 minutes.  Then serve.  These should keep for about 2 weeks out of the fridge.  The mixture should make around 60 – 70 truffles.

All in all, they took me about 30 minutes to make, and they were super easy, no hassle, and look really really good.  I made a mix of icing sugar-covered and sprinkle-covered ones, and they compliment each other well.

I took time to package them carefully, in little cardboard Christmas cups I bought from IKEA, and then wrapped them in a clear cellophane bag, tied with a  red ribbon and a little name tag.

Christmas Part 9: Non-Alcoholic Mulled Wine

This actually ties into the Cheap and Cheerful category as well as Christmas,but I’m including it on my Christmas countdown!

This is another easy recipe to make (which is great for Christmas, as everything is always so busy, it’s often hard to get time to yourself to do all the necessary things like making the Christmas cake, mince pies, mulled wine, etc etc…

It’s also another family favourite that gets pulled out of the recipe folder every Christmas.  Part of the putting-up-christmas-decorations ritual with my Mum and brother (Dad was always at work) was to stick on a Christmas CD, and I would go make this mulled wine whilst my brother sorted out the boxes and put together the christmas tree.  The spices are really warming and will make your whole house smell christmassy, and can be drunk any time of the day due to not actually being alcoholic (do you really need any more reasons to make it?).

Ingredients:

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

3 dstsp castor sugar

2 litres grape juice (though apple also works)

1/3 litre orange juice

1/3 litre water

1 orange, peeled and chopped, flesh only.

1 small apple, peeled and sliced thinly

Recipe:

1)  Put all ingredients (except the fresh fruit) into a aucepan and heat gently.  Do not allow to boil.

2)  Taste, and add more juices / sugar / spices to taste.

3)  Add the fruit and allow to warm in the mixture for about 5 minutes (so that they absorb some of the liquid).

4)  Serve in mugs, and garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.

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I hope all of you are nearly finished with preparations for Christmas!… I still haven’t finished my packing of presents due to a craaaazy busy week (isn’t it always during the run up to Christmas?!)… But I’m looking forward to going to my parents’ housr tomorrow and celebrating Christmas with the family!